Dreams and objectives
When I asked young people in Manchester about their ambitions for the future, almost every single one of them wanted to leave for an exotic location at the other end of the world. Greeks of the same age have other priorities, especially those who live on the island of Hydra, two hours away from Athens.
Rania (23) would have liked to become an actress but she has given up hope for that. She now works as a teacher in one of the two primary schools on Hydra. She explains me how becoming a teacher means you will be sent to a distant island to gain your first experience, in a way similar to the French system. Only after gaining sufficient experience in a distant place, young teachers may be offered the opportunity to exercise their profession closer to home.
..working hard to be able to relax when all has been done
Antoni (22) works on Hydra as a police officer. Like Rania, he is originally from the North of Greece, but was sent over start his career on the island. `I can`t wait to get off the island again. It`s too small, it`s not my place and I do have my friends here but most of them are only here for one or two years. It would be nice to come back to this island as a tourist and hold a reunion sometime in the future. For the rest of the time, I prefer to be with my family.`
Young people in Greece are likely to move quite a bit across their country. They may have to relocate for their studies, probably another time for the compulsory one-year military service and, depending on the profession, once again for their first work experience and every now and then for holidays to one of the islands. Their chosen centre of gravity remains however the place where they were born, with an option to have a second base in Athens.
Antoni tells me that the ideal of many Greeks is to marry a suitable partner, to have a good family and to live close to your parents and grandparents, `preferably no further than a block away`. According to Antoni, the average age for a Greek to get married is about 32 for a man and 28 for a woman. That is also when children should be expected. Having children before getting married is not a very well-accepted order of doing things. If a woman falls pregnant before she gets married, the likely procedure is that an emergency wedding be arranged before the birth of the child.`
If Zeus (29, photo) was granted three wishes for himself or his future, his first one would be to have an endless number of wishes, `so I can use each one whenever I need it.` Zeus has lived in England for several years and now manages his father`s pub on Hydra island. He tells me that Greek life turns around to things, both of which are complicated paradoxes. `Most of all, Greeks want to enjoy life and work as little as they can. But in reality, they like to wine a lot about how miserable their lives are. And they may enjoy doing nothing, but they have to work hard to make a decent living. For myself, I hope I will be able to retire in 10 years from now and I am working hard to make our pub more successful. The nice part of that is that whenever I go on holiday, I try to see as much of the nightlife of those places as possible ? all with the idea of collecting nice ideas for our bar here.`
Zeus continues: `Seasons in Greece are like the Greeks are: quite extreme. On Hydra, we have no cars and no proper roads. We use donkeys to transport goods and even people. But don`t think you will get anything done when it rains. The narrow stairs and roads change into rivers that make the complete island inaccessible. The chairs on the terraces are washed straight into the harbour. Then, if it`s windy, you can`t get on or off the island. Then there`s earthquakes but the houses here are very well-constructed so we consider ourselves rather safe.`
`During winter, there`s not much happening on Hydra. Most shops only open at the moment a ship arrives and close when it leaves. Only a handful of taverns are open now, as opposed to the whole harbourside being covered with terraces during summer. At this time of year, people paint their houses, do maintenance and prepare for the season. If they want to go on holiday themselves, they have to go now. In the summertime, you get a good impression of what working full-time actually means. The bar stays open until 6 or even after, only to start serving breakfast at 9. You start working after Easter, and only stop working at the beginning of September. So that is why people are taking it easy now, having endless coffees and playing a bit of Tavli.`
Despite the abundance of work, it is neither easy to find a job in Greece for an employee, nor is it easy to find suitable workforce for employers. The worrisome condition of the labour market is a major concern to young Greeks, who are very much attached to the idea that money makes everything in life work. Dimitris (20) wishes for a job that he can do all his life and that will bring him sufficient money to do everything he wants to do beside work. `Maybe I would get bored, but knowing that I will be able to make ends meet for the rest of my life would largely compensate for the possible boredom. And I wish myself a good woman to marry`, he says, while explaining that people of his age may not have the wish to get married straightaway, the idea of marriage is definitely something that keeps them busy.
Maria (22) wants to become a fashion designer, but sees no other way to make that dream come true than to marry a rich husband. Which is another one of her dreams: `I would then use his money to go traveling the world with friends, and to start a career as a fashion designer.`
Health and nature
Giorgos (24) wishes that he will stay in good health. He thinks that Greeks should take more care of their environment. `All of the Greeks are only concerned with money but they should be more attentive to nature. We are slowly destroying our surroundings.` Giorgos then adds that he does not separate his garbage, because it all gets burnt at the other side of the island anyway. He works as a local politician and promises that he will do something about environmental problems when he gets elected mayor of the island.
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